Princess No More

It is quite easy to like a film that promises to stay a bit farther off the original icky-sweet plot of the fairytale on which it is based. The 2010 version of Alice in Wonderland is a testimony to this. Such movies give you the impression–and the satisfaction–that fairytales can indeed grow up. And that their stories can be told another way without losing its general plot.

This might be, I was really not that sure, the same ground on which Snow White and the Huntsman was anchored on. In this so-called dark and twisted version of the originally bright fairytale, we were made to watch the princess literally battle against the evil queen.

Snow White was still the beautiful and pure princess of Tabor. Her skin as white as snow and her lips as red as blood, she had a happy life as a child. But things changed when her mother died and her father decided to save an equally beautiful woman named Ravenna from the Dark Army. Ravenna, though, did not have the heart as beautiful as her face. She killed the king on the very night of their wedding and took over the whole Tabor. The kingdom instantly died, poisoned by their new queen’s ruling. Powerful as she was, Ravenna and her brother Finn sapped the kingdom and its pretty women of their beauty and youth. Snow White was locked away at a secluded tower of the castle for years.

There was only one threat to the Queen’s reign–Snow White herself who managed to escape the castle. The one face fairer than the Majesty, Snow White’s heart was what the queen’s Mirror spoke of as the regimen Ravenna needed to be immortally young and beautiful. It was on this objective that Eric the Huntsman was sent to find the escaped princess.

What followed was a series of chase scenes when Eric decided to deflect the Queen when he learned that the other could not actually keep her side of the deal (which was to bring back Eric’s dead wife). Over different lands and so many other people, Snow White was chased until finally the Queen, disguised as Snow White’s childhood friend William, caught up with the princess and imposed the famous apple-biting scene.

Of course, as the story had it, Snow White was revived. Although, it was not by a Prince Charming but by the Huntsman himself! With her renewed life and strength, Snow White led her father’s people to a battle against Ravenna’s army. The battle ensued with an epic touch like any other ancient wars until at the end of the film, it was still a happy ending.

What’s Good

The cinematography managed not to be lackluster. There were scenes and graphics that were neat enough to carry a picturesque film. It was, after all, a fairytale so the scenes had to look and feel magical even if you erase the castles and the gowns.

Part of the opening scene (screenrant.com)

Capturing of certain parts of the movie was also beautifully and artfully done. To cite, there was the great shot of Ravenna sinking below a pool of what looked like milk. Focus was important in the scenes and it was given a good tap by the crew.

The Evil Queen–Before (spinoff.comicbookresources.com)

The Evil Queen–After

Although and definitely a bit lacking in color, the movie was able to capture what it meant: dark and twisted. The general atmosphere was hard to miss: this is a fairytale but there is something wrong in here, yes. It highlighted well how the kingdom was drained of life because of Ravenna and the battle scenes were effectively shown.

I also liked how the basic elements of the original fairytale were still there, if only to remind us that what we were watching was actually lifted from the same story our mothers read us at bedtime when we were younger. In fact, the film started with almost the same premise as the fairytale did. The dwarves were still there as well, finding Snow White and providing her happy times against the Queen’s wrath.

The famous “Mirror, mirror on the wall. Who’s the fairest of them all?” was not left out, too, which might be because of its important role in the unfolding of the story. How the mirror was also depicted was quite cool as well. It was not comical and definitely not the talking mirrors other Snow White shows had.

The Evil Queen and the Mirror

It was just as good that the depictions in this film were wholly different from, say, the picture books and cartoon shows of the same tale. We had Snow White in a different and ultimately more disenchanting gown that made her character as strong as she was supposed to be. Even Ravenna’s ensemble was not as sickeningly imperial and villainous. At the very least, the movie tried its best to divert from the fairytale from its story down to its portrayal.

And What’s Not

There were several problems one as a viewer could experience while watching the movie. For one, cuts were not fluidly made. One scene changes into another and you would hardly understand why. It was saved time and again by the chase scenes but if one would delete one or two of those, you would realize that some cuts were better not done at all.

Another seeming problem with the film was how much it tends to tell when there should really be one solid plot. Understandably, there had to be a different focus of conflict (or conflicts) because the movie aimed to deviate from the usual. But putting together character development stories, a general chase plot, and a tinge of love story was not a very good idea for this film.

It might have something to do with the storytelling but a lot of the movie’s parts were not fully developed. They seemed to have happened out of nowhere, no foreshadowing and definitely no reason behind them. This was evident in the kissing scene of Snow White and the disguised William as well as in the development of the Huntsman’s back story.

Finally, character delivery was also unstable. There were characters with so much gusto that their delivery was superb and powerful. Others, on the contrary, were a bit laidback if not at all forgettable. These contrasting factors made the film keel dangerously sideways that by the end of the movie, you would not really remember anybody at all except for the three main characters:

Charlize Theron, Queen Ravenna

The Evil Queen

Queen Ravenna made Hollywood. Yes, it was Charlize’s Evil Queen. She was less menacing and more commercial in the way she portrayed her character. It was not as brilliant as, say, Helena Bonham-Carter. But for a movie villain, it did not at all defer too low from the usual.

An outraged Queen (lookingcloser.org)

It was then a good thing that Charlize had the looks of a Queen. True, she also had the regal stance and the plausible accent of a royal. At least, she had enough of the facial expression to convey her feelings. This meant that she did not rely on the way she delivered her lines–because she had a tendency to shout when she meant to be scary.

Chris Hemsworth, Eric the Huntsman

Eric the Huntsman

You be hunted by this man here and you really would be dead scared. Crazy Chris Hemsworth seemed to have overdone his being a huntsman a bit but you could say he really was into the part.

I just did not like his slurred lines but overall, Chris had it in himself to be more than just a fully physical action man. He was dirty as he should be. He ran well, sturdy and fast. And best of all, his Thor-self made him the great fighter that he was in this film.

Kristen Stewart, Snow White

Snow White (filmofilia.com)

Seriously, Kristen as a princess? Kristen? That big-voiced, heavy-stepping, sturdy girl? A princess?

Well, yes. The movie’s greatest defiance of the sweet and princess-y tale that is Snow White came in the form of their lead actress. Kristen was not known for her soft antics or girly acts. She did not even have the sweet voice of a princess. And this was just the right mix for the battling princess that the film aimed to show.

At the battle (all-things-andy-gavin.com)

The only problem with Kristen’s portrayal was (and because I could not phrase it any other way): she had so much Bella Swan in her! I know it would sound rude to compare how she acted Bella and Snow White because the two had so much differences. But it was so difficult to separate the two especially if you see the same old expressions. The way she acted when she bit the poisonous apple was quite the same way she did when she was bitten by a vampire in the Twilight. Even the delivery of her lines was like deja vu.

Crazy.

Oh well, you could only hope so much.

Overall, Snow White and the Huntsman was not a bad choice if you wanted a film that deviates from its own norms. But maybe, just maybe, you could do with lesser expectations so that you would not have the tendency to look for things that are not–and would never be–there.

Claps and Cheers

Well I just gotta drop by and say my congratulations to the very much deserving winners at the MTV Movie Awards 2012. And by very much deserving, I mean:

Best On-Screen Transformation: Elizabeth Banks (as Effie Trinket in The Hunger Games)

Elizabeth Banks at the MTV Movie Awards (ahyeahmockingjay.tumblr.com)

Well, who could ever say it was a bad choice, right? (thehungergames.wikia.com)

Best Fight: Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson and Alexander Ludwig (The Last Fight of Katniss, Peeta and Cato)

Alexander Ludwig & Josh Hutcherson at the MTV Movie Awards

Fight at the Cornucopia (brainlessgifs.tumblr.com)

The gif above is the best I could find for the category, sorry. Or maybe it’s just that I don’t want to see Cato’s bloody face in my blog. But just the same, best fight is what this whole scene’s about.

Best Male Performance: Josh Hutcherson (as Peeta Mellark in The Hunger Games)

Josh Hutcherson accepting his MTV Movie Awards golden popcorn (3news.co.nz)

As the ever adorable Peeta (hitthefloor.co.uk)

Best Female Performance: Jennifer Lawrence (as Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games)

From Jennifer Lawrence’s acceptance video (dailymail.co.uk)

As the phenomenal Katniss Everdeen (hungergamesdwtc.net)

Best Cast: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II

Emma Watson accepting the golden popcorn in behalf of the entire cast (uk.omg.yahoo.com)

Semi-complete Deathly Hallows Part II Cast (zimbio.com)

Any other cast you think should win this? I can’t think of any! (syaoran.net)

No surprise here, you know. Dan and Emma and Rupert. Ralph Fiennes, Maggie Smith, Alan Rickman, Helena Bonham Carter, Matthew Lewis, Evanna Lynch, Bonnie Wright, Tom Felton. . .

James and Oliver Phelps . . .

Julie Walters . . .

Gary Oldman . . .

Can we go on forever? :))))

Emma was the only one present to accept the award. And she still was able to give the best speech of the night:

I don’t think I will ever accept an award on behalf of so many people. From Ralph Fiennes to Helena Bonham Carter to Hedwig and Dobby and all of them, this is amazing! We had over 200 cast members and I wish they could all be up here with me now. Sadly, they can’t. Obviously, I share this award, in particular, with Dan and Rupert. Wherever you are, I hope you’re watching and I miss you both dearly. Just thank you! I really, really appreciate it. Thank you!

And in true Hagrid fashion, may I just say: Well done, Hermione!

Best Hero: Harry Potter!!!!!

Daniel Radcliffe (topnews.in)

Harry Potter (moviechopshop.com)

Hell, you name anybody else as the better hero than this boy who saved an entire world on his own and I’d say you’re crazy. Haha! And maybe I’m biased because of my undying love for the series. But the fact that MTV Awards is based on fan choices, well that is saying something.

I love, love, love this set of MTV winners. And I hope next year’s would be even better even if it has no more Harry Potter nominations.

Catch-up: In Time

Because I got one of my rare full weekend last time, I had the chance to catch up on my reading and movie watching. And really, I was surprised by just how much I had already been missing. Plus the fact that I had been going through The Girl who Kicked the Hornet’s Nest for about three months now. Sucks.

Anyway, one movie that I was able to see was In Time (on DVD already, of course).

In Time, 2011

I wanted to watch this film when it came out last year because of its trailer. It has probably one of the most intriguing stories in the realm of sci-fi thrillers and the fact that its lead stars are not really known for such a type of film did play a major role in getting everybody excited.

Plot

In Time is set in the year 2161 where genetic engineering is in its glorious era and is able to make people stop aging after their 25th birthday. But there is one major glitch. When a person reaches 25, a glow-in-the-dark digital clock in his or her left arm is activated. For most people, they get an initial 24 hours. And this they have to increase or else they die–because when one’s clock reads zero, it means life is over and he or she dies instantly.

The cliche “time is of the essence” is literally taken in this movie. Time has even replaced money’s value in that a person earns additional seconds or hours by working and loses minutes whenever they purchase something. Heck, even a bus ride can cost an hour while a beer can cost eight hours.

Will Salas and his mother Rachel are some of those people who live day by day, earning and losing their time in a vicious cycle of economics and never being assured that they can still see the sun rise the following day. When he received 100 years from a time-rich Henry Hamilton, the man he saved from a time-robbery assault but who committed suicide just the same, Will is ready to live a better life.

But his mother dies, even before he gets to share his century with her, when a disbelieving rise in the price of a bus ride cost her the last hour she has. Barely out of his grief, Will is accused of murdering Henry. Out of all the negatives he has been receiving from the rotten system that is his society, Will sets out to seek revenge in the Time Zones where the other time-rich people live.

There he meets Sylvia Weis the lovely daughter of business tycoon Philippe Weis and instantly gets mushy with her. But his own time is shortened when the Timekeepers (the story’s version of the police), headed by Raymond Leon, nabs Will. He escapes though, taking Sylvia along as a hostage.

What follows is a constant mix of chase and heist scenes as Will and Sylvia, who eventually becomes his accomplice, gets in a series of crimes as they try to undermine Sylvia’s dad’s empire to give more time to the poor all the while escaping the authority that seeks to bind them in.

Concept

I must say that I did love the film’s concept albeit its bordering into becoming a fantasy movie where people cease to age. It’s quite as refreshing and as interesting as Christopher Nolan’s Inception. The futuristic sense of the movie was hard to dislike, especially as everybody loved to at least be presented a possibility where their futures were concerned.

The rendering of the “time” concept was just as cool. You could imagine living like that and probably you would shudder at the very thought. Yet, the film could make you have that feeble feeling of wanting to try being stamped with a clock that could very much predict the time of your death.

"Time"

Execution

For me, the film’s settings were a bit lax. Setting up a story in a place that could only be a century from now was challenging since it involved a great deal of imagination. So I wasn’t sure if it was just me or the film’s crew did settle for a mere compromise between how a present avenue looked like before and how it could progress to a different phase in the future. Aside from that, it felt more like watching a ghetto film because of the abundance of metal sheets and box houses.

But there were some parts and props that were really commendable. I especially liked two things:

The car Justin Timberlake bought . . .

No, I’m not a car enthusiast but I do know how to appreciate four wheels when they come as breathtaking as that convertible Will Salas purchased with the Millennium he won at a card game against Philippe Weis. In fact, all of the cars used including the ones that belonged to the Timekeepers were superbly modern and sturdy and cool.

. . . and the vaults Amanda and Justin robbed time from.

I wasn’t sure why but I did like the construction of the vaults and all the other tech items that were used in the film. They, contrary to the setting they were placed in, spelled the modernity that the movie was all about.

But the biggest point I’d like to make about how the film was executed is that it was dangerously dragging. The pacing was utterly slow considering the magnitude of the concept that the film was embodying. There were too much chase scenes and less of the planning that a good heist movie needed. I  felt like the movie could have done with better angles.

The presence of so many adversaries was also not that engaging. It was already difficult to think about how the protagonists could go on running from the authorities. And to add some more sets of villains, it was plainly a circus of shoot-the-man.

Characters

Justin Timberlake, Will Salas

Will Salas

They said Justin is not yet ripe for the silver screen. I said he can be when I saw Friends with Benefits. But as it turned out, he can be good in rom-coms and chick flicks because he had the charms and the looks. However, for such demanding roles like his Will Salas, Justin had a great chance of falling short. True, he had the body and the revengeful eyes. But he had little sense of drama. He could cry and mope and be mad and yet everything just doesn’t feel right.

Amanda Seyfried, Sylvia Weis

Sylvia Weis

Well, her big eyes did it again. She was great in all the scenes where she had to be surprised and scared and deep in thought. The new look also felt refreshing and did a nice job prying Amanda away from her chick-flick aura. But here’s the thing: she could look mean and run hot with a gun yet she still had that husky voice that seemed more for a romantic film than this one.

Cillian Murphy, Raymond Leon

Raymond Leon

Was he not somehow too small and fragile looking for a Head Timekeeper position? Well, he was. But even so, Cillian Murphy’s portrayal was redeeming. He gave substance to all the running around that Justin and Amanda’s characters were doing. He provided well the conflict that his co-actors needed. Best of all, he was able to wind up a subplot that really was a breath of fresh air in this fast film.

Alex Pettyfer, Fortis

Fortis

I kind of got tired of Alex Pettyfer’s role in here by the time the film reached its middle part. I mean, it was bad enough that the imbalance of their society was highlighted. Maybe they did not need thugs like Fortis to make things worse anymore. I did like seeing Alex onscreen though. But still, him and his “bad guy” roles (Beastly?) should start fading away by now.

Olivia Wilde, Rachel Salas

Rachel Salas

Shock. Well that’s what you would feel like upon seeing Olivia Wilde . . . as Justin Timberlake’s mother! I remembered this very fact becoming a subject in most Web articles at the time the film was being promoted. Seriously, someone Olivia’s age as a mother to Justin? But in the movie, it was totally forgotten as people focused on her short-lived yet definitely meaningful character. She was a symbolism of all the things that perished in time. And her death was more than sad–it was breaking.

Vincent Kartheiser, Philippe Weis

Philippe Weis

The man was a dead ringer of the teen Voldemort in the Harry Potter series, was he not? That was what I was thinking of the whole time I was watching him. But when you finally decided he was not Frank Dillane, you could go over his performance more astutely. I could not shake the same feeling I had over Olivia Wilde’s mom role especially when I saw Kartheiser as Amanda’s “rich old man”. Overall though, he was an interesting character to watch because he had layers that most people would not even realize.

Matt Bomer, Henry Hamilton

Henry Hamilton

Man, did he look good or did he look better? Okay, that should not be the point. Hmmm. I wished there were more of Henry Hamilton’s character than that overnight talk with Will Salas. And this had nothing to do with me liking Matt Bomer’s face illuminated by streetlamps at night, ‘kay? It’s just that I thought I could have appreciated well the idea that there was indeed a nagging negative feeling with having an entire century to live. With the fact that you could in fact  live a thousand years if you were wealthy enough. It was one of the parts of the films that made sense. And I wished they expounded on that.

Over all, In Time could have used a more defined plot with concrete scenes that had its lead stars thinking as much as they wanted their audience to do so. It was not a  bad movie but it could have been better. They had so much of story going for them to be encumbered with chase scenes and shootings.

 

Photos from Rotten Tomatoes and all over Google

And the Games have begun . . .

Hmmmm. . .

I just saw The Hunger Games last Friday night. I logged in to my Tumblr account and found every bit of my dashboard featuring stills, gifs, peoples’ reactions and so much more about the movie (and the book, of course). Well, I wanted so much to contribute to the conversation. But I told myself I don’t think I could until I got to watch it again (and I’m planning to, really).

So right now, all I could muster are the following crazy thoughts:

1. I think I’d like to be one of the gamemakers if only for that oh-so-sophisticated set of touch screens they used.

Gamemakers' Headquarters (thehungergames.wikia.com)

2. Gale. *sigh* I don’t know what to think of you, right now. You’ve made me hate your intensity, your vulnerability to rage, and your greatest sin of crafting the bomb that killed one of my most favorite characters. But in this movie, in every time you are shown watching Katniss and Peeta together on screen, my heart goes out for you.

Liam Hemsworth, Gale Hawthorne (Photo Source)

3. Something is amiss in that cave scene. Even after the kiss. Just . . . Errr. I’ll think about this.

One part of the cave scene (swedishbelieber.tumblr.com)

4. And that post-Games interview. That ride back home.

Katniss and Peeta during the post-Games interview (thehungergames2012.wordpress.com)

Katniss and Peeta on the train ride back to District 12 (http://thehungergames2012.wordpress.com)

5. If I were to go fight as District 12’s tribute, I won’t ever doubt putting my life in Haymitch’s hand. I mean, come on. That point where he was watching Katniss in pain due to her burns? And the way he acted after? He’s a man who knows what he’s doing when he’s drunk. And who knows even better when he’s sober. Team Haymitch forever.

Woody Harrelson, Haymitch Abernathy (fanpop.com)

Just a teensy question, though. Did he ever got to say “Stay Alive” in that entire movie? Can’t remember! Seriously, must watch it again.

6. There are some small details that shouldn’t have been changed if only because they affected more major parts of the movie. Like Peeta’s leg wound, the rain, and Cato’s death (it was supposed to be long and agonizing).

7. The Careers Pack were superbly amazing. They’re cunning, beautiful, and definitely the kind that you would avoid if you’re one of the contenders in the Games. Cato especially. Cato.

The Careers (Clove, Glimmer, Cato, and Marvel) (the hungergames2012.wordpress.com)

Alexander Ludwig, Cato (screenrant.com)

8. Two deaths I found really disturbing and saddening: Rue’s (of course!) and Foxface’s (the tribute I would have wanted to win if Katniss and Peeta are not the protagonists).

Rue's death scene (thehungergames2012.wordpress.com)

Foxface's death scene (thehungergames2012.wordpress.com)

9. Primrose. If there was one thing I totally love about the beginning, it’s how Prim was introduced. Remember this is the girl that has started it all. The girl Katniss loved so much she was willing to die in the Games for her.

Prim and Katniss (capitolgoods.tumblr.com)

The girl who had so much love and compassion in her heart. I liked how she was depicted as someone who was so scared of being picked, which was more showed with the shock on her face when she was called out as District 12’s tribute.

Willow Shields, Primrose Everdeen (coolspotters.com)

But when her name was read out, she knew she had no choice other than to tuck her duck tail back into her skirt and go up that stage. She never meant for her sister to volunteer, never meant for Katniss’ life to be in danger. All she wanted was a life of peace and happiness. But the Games changed her forever.

10. Katniss. Here’s the thing. I’m still unsure of my feelings about Josh Hutcherson’s Peeta. But Jennifer Lawrence’s Katniss is, for me, perfect.

Katniss and her trusted bow and arrow (audreyparker.tumblr.com)

Jennifer Lawrence, Katniss Everdeen (j-14.com)

One problem I’ve had with the film before I even got to see it is that we might be in for another Bella-frustration. It’s the downside of having read the books first, which are written in Katniss’ POV. Definitely, we know more of what goes on in her head than what she would be showing. This is what happened to Kristen Stewart. People have forgotten she’s not supposedly showing all them emotions in the book because she tries to keep a straight face all the time.

No, I’m not comparing Kristen and Jennifer. I’m merely saying how this exact positioning is difficult for movie-viewers.

Katniss, and Jennifer, is definitely in for the same criticizing. She shows less of facial expressions. But what we have to understand is that she hides every bit of emotion she has in the duration of the novel. Because it’s what would keep her safe and strong and desirable for sponsors.

But we’ve got to give it to Jennifer. She’s brilliant! Her eyes are more than speaking. She acts tough with all the softness we cannot help but love. She’s charming albeit her strong features. She has fear, love, despair, fast-thinking, and pain etched in every bit of her face. She is the perfect mockingjay, the one that survived even through all the flaws that could have destroyed her performance.

Katniss during the Reaping (audreyparker.tumblr.com)

I would definitely go for a second watch (and a DVD of course). After that, I think I could write a more detailed post of my thoughts. For now, what I want is to get off all them brewing words in my mind.

Overall, I like the movie in itself. Love it, even. It has achieved that sense of uniqueness, which its story has, and the feeling of finally having something new in our young adult sphere.

The Hunger Games indeed would make all of us hungry for more.

The Reaping

 

Okay, so right now I can’t seem to say my thoughts on the subject. Not yet, anyway. I’ve watched this for about five times already. But, no, no words yet.

I just want to post it up so I would remember to combine a few words in the nearest possible future.

THG fans, I hope you enjoy watching. :>

Did Everything Really End?

Well, I guess the answer is and will always be “No.”

Finally, I’ve found the courage to search for the videos of the thank you speeches of four of the most wonderful people in the world of film and literature: JK Rowling, Rupert Grint, Emma Watson, and Daniel Radcliffe.

Daniel Radcliffe, JK Rowling, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint (photo from cooltowear.com)

These are the speeches they’ve made in front of the rowdy crowd at the world premiere of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part II.

Now, given all of these thank you’s, I think I’m now ready to say my own.

To Dan:

Emma’s right. You were, are, and will always be the perfect Harry. You’ve no idea how we have all been thankful that you looked exactly the way Harry is described in the books. You have grown into a fantastic man who’s not afraid to say he microwaves his food. Thank you for showing us the best portrayal of being that boy with a lightning scar, that brave, brave man who has the biggest heart that enables sacrifices for so many people.

To Rupert:

Such a laid-back attitude that gets all of us mostly swooning. You have made gingers look so amazing. The loyalty that your character Ron has seems not to emanate from a book description but from within your own heart. Thank you for being such a down-to-earth man. You have so much truth within you that we all cannot help but simply be glad that you have become a part of the journey of our most favorite character.

To Emma:

You are such an inspiration to all of those girls who work so hard to improve themselves. We have seen you grow out of that bushy brown hair and mature with so much wisdom. Thank you for being very open with your thoughts and feelings, for having such intelligence that not even the spotlights can outshine. You have always known what you wanted in life and we have seen that not only in your interviews as Emma but also in your portrayal of Hermione. Just like your co-stars, you have perfected your role so much that we cannot find nor imagine someone else do it.

Lastly, to Jo:

For the most amazing writer, the only one who have bound together several nations with her fantastic talent, the woman who has not only created a magical world but a place where everybody else is encouraged to simply be their best, thank you is not enough. We have loved your creation. We have waited for our owls on the day of our eleventh birthday. And like I’ve always said, you are our Dumbledore–who have sent us again and again invitations to come to Hogwarts and be mystified by that wonderful world.

You are the kind of writer we all want to be like. You are the kind of mother whose passion so shines in her works that your love for your children is not something to be doubted. And you are the kind of woman everyone else needs to embody–honest, brave, and talented.

It’s been four months since the last film, ten years since the first movie, and a childhood’s worth of time since I’ve first set my eyes on that fateful copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Until now, I find it difficult to say goodbye.

Which may mean that it has all ended but as everybody else has predicted, we will always, always be back.

It’s the Usual Thing, I Guess

This is a typical story, actually. Two people from some different points in one continent meet, they become friends, they spend time together, they fall in love with each other, something goes amiss, they reconcile, and then the happy ending comes in.

But wait, Friends with Benefits is not just that. We may have seen the film’s plot from other friends-with-benefits movies (with of course different titles). Somehow though, Friends . . .  has come up with something delectable enough that at one point after the opening credits, you would already feel like you’re having a really good time (which may not always be caused by Justin’s topless stunts).

The Story

A movie by Will Gluck, Friends with Benefits is a story that tells of how a love story can actually be born from a friendship with what may seem as side, unemotional, benefits. Jamie, a headhunter, and Dylan meets when the former lures the latter into coming and moving to New York to take on the job as GQ’s new art director.

After a grueling tour around New York’s high points, Jamie manages to convince Dylan. Knowing no one in the crowded city, Dylan then turns Jamie into his best friend.

Now, they are of course two people who are single and free and, erm, with lots of energy and drive. Which means they have bodily needs that they want satisfied. However, they want those needs satisfied without the hassle of an emotional attachment.

Seeing that they’re a great pair of pretty people who may not be so bad in bed together, the two decides to embark on a friendly bed journey without the promise of a heartbreak.

But of course, the story is not that smooth. As we all know, this is the kind of set up that means at some point, one or both of them would feel something more than physical hotness. And this is just what happens, which is made stronger by the fact that they cannot seem to find other people who would be as compatible with them as each other is.

In the end, there is only the realization that maybe they can not only be friends benefiting physically from each other but two people who may have compatible hearts.

The Characters

Mila Kunis as Jamie

An uber open smile and smoking deep eyes made liking Mila Kunis effortless. That’s not to mention her husky tones, too. She is a perfect choice for the film–young, energetic, promising, optimistic, and a total emotional wreck. I loved her sensibility that was so apparently charming you couldn’t really doubt she was a great headhunter. It didn’t hurt as well that she was a stunning however average-looking New Yorker.

Justin Timberlake as Dylan

Maybe it’s high time we all accepted Justin Timberlake as more than a beloved boy band member turned soloist. He was fun to watch, being exceptionally artistic and preppy without losing the character. He had the charm that was not exactly boy-next-door material. Justin may still hold all those 90’s memoirs brought forth by a couple of singing lines, but you couldn’t deny he’s gotten more complex as an actor.

Patricia Clarkson as Lorna

Portraying Jamie’s equally emotionally-wrecked mother, Patricia Clarkson gave the role a great twist. Her being youthful was both amusing and bewildering, especially as you very well knew she was supposedly a mother.

Richard Jenkins as Mr Harper

Richard Jenkins was a fine addition to the cast, providing wisdom where all the vibrancy of the youth failed. He gave in a really good contribution though he was characterized as frail and old and with deteriorating memory.

Jenna Elfman as Annie

With a somehow smaller part than the rest, Jenna Elfman managed to make a mark as the ever supporting and wacky sister of Dylan. She was introduced on top of a calm sea for a setting and she emanated the same soothing effect.

Woody Harrelson as Tommy

Hey there, soon to be Haymitch Abernathy. I found Woody Harrelson’s performance as edgy, with the eccentricity and openness that was brilliantly shown. He was not at all hampered by the character’s being openly gay–the machismo still stood out complete with perky but honest opinions.

What I Liked About the Movie

Well, let’s say it was pretty nice to watch something that was laid-back enough for you to simply enjoy. You very well knew what could be the ending but still, you would not be bored with the plot. In some ways, the story dealt more with internal and people vs. people conflicts that were intriguing and very much mirrored the very society we lived in.

It was also easy to admit that one of the film’s pluses was the fact that its leads looked perfectly good together.

Somehow, these two ended up being paired and the result had more that meets the eye.

Another positive addition were the flash mob scenes. They added a flare to the whole story. At the beginning, the flash mob was simply to show NYC’s colorful life:

But when the finale was also graced with the same art, you could just tell that it was something noteworthy. That flash mob complete with what could be one of the best confessions ever to be written was totally amazing.

What I Didn’t Like

Okay, let us admit it was difficult to look for something to scrutinize with this kind of movie more because of the very fact that it was not supposed to be perfect. It had to make you feel good but it did not really aim to satisfy so much of the technicalities of creating a film. In fact, it did not exert too much effort to make sure people engaged into deep thinking while watching.

So . . . let’s pass up on this part. * wink *

On the whole, Friends with Benefits was one of those that you would keep for the sake of having a readily-available movie to spend late nights and friendly gatherings with.

And above all, to remind us that however wretched love stories may be, there would always come that time when we could simply enjoy the feeling.

Photos from Rotten Tomatoes and all over Google Images

Letters and Italy

Okay, so I’m deciding right this moment to come out of the blogging cave in which I have been hiding. What better way to spend the holidays (read: long weekend) than to catch up with your writing, right?

Hence, another movie review. The subject: Amanda Seyfried.

Sorry, I meant: Letters to Juliet.

I was in the office when I saw the movie with Amanda as the lead character. But it was from one of my college friends that I first heard about the film, er, around a year ago? So what made me want to see it after such long time?

For one, it’s a story about love. I loved the freshness with which the story is promoted. And fine, it did help that the setting was in Verona, Italy. Ha!

The Plot

Letters to Juliet was a film about searching for true love. Sophie, a happily engaged career woman, went on a pre-honeymoon trip with her fiance Victor to Verona, Italy. Her bubble of excitement was unfortunately burst when the Italian cuisine seemed to appeal more to the aspiring chef and restaurateur that was Victor. While Sophie, on the other hand, simply wanted to enjoy the ultimately romantic getaway.

When Victor went overboard by going to several research-based trips, leaving Sophie alone most of the time. That was when she found the loving world of the so-called “secretaries” of the famous Juliet Capulet. A lot of tourists, especially women, from all over the world come to Verona to write letters to their loved ones. Then, the secretaries themselves reply.

It was in this way that Sophie discovered a long hidden letter written by a certain Claire to a man named Lorenzo. The letter was five decades old. Moved so much by the letter, which was about a woman who had left the man she loved, Sophie sought permission to reply.

As only chance could have it, the letter sender was still alive. Sophie was visited by Claire, who had come all the way from London together with her grandson Charlie. The visitors were like opposite poles: Claire strongly believed in Sophie’s idea of finding her Lorenzo again while Charlie so adamantly maintained that it would be a waste of time.

But the loving heart of Claire prevailed and so they set to a search party, creating a list of all the Lorenzo’s around the area and visiting each one.

In the course of the search, something sparks between the bickering Sophie and Charlie. It had become a roller coaster of some sort. Things happened and then suddenly, they had to part. But of course, as in any love story, the two found a way back to each other.

The film ended with the romantic denouement that was somehow predictable but still overly endearing.

The Cast

Amanda Seyfried as Sophie

Amanda Seyfried

The ever-sweet blonde Amanda did not at all disappoint in this romantic film. Her expressive eyes were a total plus. The girl could cry and hope and sigh and manage to get everybody believe in the warm feeling that only love could give. I think it also didn’t hurt that she was utterly beautiful, with a rare positive glow, which all the more complements with the sunny Verona.

Chris Egan as Charlie

Chris Egan

A superbly effective English man with a delightfully charming accent, Chris made it difficult to actually dislike the pompous boy that his character Charlie was. He was lovable, with so much of the boy-who-grew-up-with-granny aura that his actions were actually quite pleasant to see. Best of all, he had this clarity that was bordering on honesty that gave out so much feelings you could hardly take away what made him smile.

Vanessa Redgrave as Claire

Vanessa Redgrave with Franco Nero (Lorenzo)

For a woman who’s supposedly 50 years or more, Vanessa is a surprisingly radiant. She had no inkling of being too aged. Maybe it was because she had too much love in her, that it radiated from within her. There’s a lot of positive aura around Vanessa that you cannot help but to actually wish she finds her Lorenzo.

Gael Garcia Bernal as Victor

Gael Garcia Bernal

Well, he’s a good man with strong hopes and dreams. Gael is a perfect Victor, with his heavy accent and sturdy shaped jaws. I liked his eyes and the way he looked so smart and passionate.

What I Liked About It

Let’s do a list in this part . . .

Verona, Italy

1. The setting. It’s Verona, man. What else could we ask for? The place is sunny, with a touch of vintage, with lots of greens and woods. It’s the perfect setting for a love story.

2. The soundtrack. Italian songs and Colbie Caillat. Now, that’s great music. The film is laden with cool and breezy notes that all scenes are practically like in a musical.

3. The overall aesthetics of the film. I actually couldn’t put my fingers into whatever it was that made me say aesthetics. It’s just that when I was watching the movie, it felt like a freshly baked pie–sweet smelling and delectable looking.

What I Didn’t Like About It

Well . . . let’s just say I thought the movie was all too easy. I could’t quite pinpoint how difficult I wanted the story to be like. But I guess there were just too little conflict. In fact, it was so little a conflict that I could easily tell how the end would be. But okay, maybe we could be a bit lenient since it was, after all, a rom com with an utterly familiar plot.

On the whole, Letters to Juliet is one of those films that you can watch for its goodness and never get tired of the story. It feels nice to have something like that, which is handy enough for a pleasant afternoon lounging with friends–or better yet, with a special someone.

In parting, I’d like to share with you Juliet’s (Sophie’s) letter in reply to Claire’s–in the hope that you take it by the heart and feel the love radiate strongly:

Dear Claire,

“What” and “if” are two words as none threatening as words can be, but put them together side by side and they have the power to haunt you for the rest of your life. What if? What if? What if? I don’t know how your story ended, but if wouldn’t you felt then was true love, then it’s never too late. If it was true then, why wouldn’t it be true now? You need only the courage to follow your heart. I don’t know what a love like Juliet’s feels like –love to leave loved ones for –love to cross oceans for… But I’d like to believe if I ever were to feel it, that’ I’d have the courage to seize it. And Claire, if you didn’t, I hope one day that you will.

All my love,

Juliet

It All Ends

If you visited this page a couple of Mondays ago, and I was still the blithering disoriented blogger that I was, you would have probably read the first “draft” of the below article.

And I wouldn’t have forgiven myself for that.

I was all set to writing my own thoughts about the last installment of the Harry Potter franchise the very Sunday afternoon after I watched it. But I guess I kind of hesitated because I was way too consumed with conflicting thoughts and feelings to be objective.

Because clearly, how do you write something about that? How do you go about letting go of ten years’ worth of memories, lessons, adventures, moments? Surely, it’s not as easy or we’d probably be simply moving on without second thoughts. It’s all confusing, with emotions switching from light to heavy. We can only try and grab on everything solid to keep us from shaking madly until, for all it’s worth, we can only think about how it all ends.

A couple of weeks ago, when I entered the theater to watch Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2, I didn’t have any other expectations than the fact that my next two hours would be very, very emotional.

Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 2

And I was right. There was a collective tension, excitement, and sadness about the theater that somehow, it would be hard to miss the point of everything . In the end, though, everything was simply . . . indescribable. Which brings me home to the idea that I don’t even know how to start writing all of this.

The whole of the following week, therefore, was spent thinking about the movie in all its aspects. And, okay, seeing it again. That was when I decided to simply categorize my thoughts about the movie–and go from there.

PRODUCTION, CINEMATOGRAPHY

Well, I still don’t know what to talk about when I say cinematography. But right now, all I want to say is that: I am a bit confused as to my assessment of the general physicality of the movie. I watched it in 3D, so I guess there was more to the visual experience than what would normally be there. The experience was nice enough, especially during the opening scenes where Dementors seemed to float exactly next to you, at Gringotts, and the time when Voldemort was torn into pieces.

At Gringotts

I also liked the capturing of most scenes, like the ruined Diagon Alley that set the mood for further destructive parts of the film. The effects were as daunting as Bellatrix, too. The Battle was carried out more magnificently than any Spartan movie–let’s just say I never imagined there could be thousands of Death Eaters.

The Final Duel at the Ruined Hogwarts

The best cinematographic part probably was the time when Hogwarts was being destroyed wall by wall during the battle. Hogwarts gave the most of heartaches: imagine that entire majesty of a school being teared down brick by brick. It was not emphasized in such a way that frames were dedicated to the ruins, but it was there in the background–silently falling apart but deafeningly painful.

However, the visual journey was sort of limited because there was hardly any new sites to feature. And I think the movie being of fantasy type didn’t really help in leveling-up the excitement field–I suppose people will just take it for granted now, that’s why.

I also think I have to give the best round of applause to the film’s DOP for the great shots. Capturing everything was so difficult to do in a fashion that would not take the light off the background, while knowing that all your audience would want is to drink in piece by piece the sights of their favorite (I mean lead) characters. But the framings were beautiful, with the most stars to that part where the protective enchantments everyone was casting began to trickle all around Hogwarts.

HITS AND MISSES

While I’m pretty much expecting that this final Harry Potter movie would not stick religiously with the book, I still found a few deletions/changes as more than striking.

I was very particular with the final duel between Harry and Voldemort because it was when everything about the two of them will be revealed. Alas, it did not happen the way I imagined it to be. Which was more difficult to be merciful with because at the time I was reading the book, I have already somehow created a vivid movie-version of it–complete with exactly the faces of Harry and Voldemort and the setting at Hogwarts. Hence, the disappointment.

The same feeling extends to the fact that Dumbledore’s past was 90% removed from the movie. I would have liked that, partially because it would’ve included Jamie Campbell Bower and mostly because it could add color to Dumbledore’s life. You know, he’s always portrayed as very majestic so much so that flaws and dark pasts would be utterly welcomed.

I also thought that I could’ve done better with inclusion of the scene at Ravenclaw tower–that one where the Carrows caught Harry, who was then saved by McGonagall. It could’ve been a very touching scene, what with McGonagall being exactly like a protective mother to Harry.

And the worst deletion? The part where Percy makes up with his family. Yeah. I’m not a big fan of Percy (because he’s a git and all) but I think the very essence of fighting for your family and for the greater good of everyone around you would have been captured by that reconciliation.

But though I’m not as partial with these, and more other scenes (oh and seriously, an all white frame for Dumbledore and Harry’s last conversation?), I still admit this final movie stuck with most of the book much unlike the previous ones. The Gringotts scene was well-executed and the conversation between Harry and Griphook and the explanation from Ollivander were documented in the right manner. The explanatory scenes were crafted well enough for the non-readers to understand and the entire Deathly Hallows phenomenon was not very much lost (albeit the Cloak’s miniscule presence).

CHARACTER DELIVERY

On the characters side, I thought that the idea of bringing together all possible and retrievable previous casts was a bit of a mess. There were fleeting glimpses, which I guess was understandable because the movie wasn’t at all character-centered. But I felt like there was too much people while still missing out on most of them: Grawp, Firenze, Oliver Wood, Crabbe (!), and even Nearly Headless Nick.

But okay, enough of that. Let’s focus on the delivery of those who were actually included. I’ll only talk about a few, since to rattle off is already too much (hey, I’m surprised you’ve even reached this part).

Daniel Radcliffe as Harry Potter

Ralph Fiennes as Lord Voldemort

Daniel Radcliffe and Ralph Fiennes also did not fail. Their duels giving out more than what you could imagine. Although way too overrated, I thought Dan still surpassed himself–the way he very maturely delivered his Harry. I also have to say, in this movie, Voldemort defied the term villain. He could not be a villain. Bellatrix was, maybe. But Voldemort? No. He’s something else. I’m not sure what he could be, but he’s not just a villain.

Helena Bonham-Carter as Bellatrix Lestrange

While we’re on the subject of Bellatrix, let me just say Helena Bonham-Carter‘s portrayal of her Polyjuice-d self was immensely amusing. Really, the woman is a gem.

Emma Watson as Hermione Granger

I’m afraid Emma Watson had not made the most of this last film although her Hermione Granger got to show more of the emotions her 11-year-old version so lacked. She cried at the right times, delivered the best-aimed spells, and simply collected her previously frantic moods. But somehow, there was something lacking. Like it was there, but being held back by something else. Maybe it was because of the whole Ron-Hermione thing that was the focus for both of them.

Rupert Grint as Ron Weasley

And yet Rupert Grint‘s Ron was able to be edgy and superb in most of their scenes together. He was matured enough to be Hermione’s strength in this time of depression.

Tom Felton as Draco Malfoy

I must also give some thought to Tom Felton‘s Draco Malfoy. In his own way, he delivered something more than a twenty-year-old could muster. The fear, the constant hesitation, being tugged in between doing the right and preferring the wrong side his parents had chosen from him. He was a hard character to love, but easy enough to understand.

Matthew Lewis as Neville Longbottom

And then might I applaud Matthew Lewis too? Neville Longbottom, you might just be the Chosen One and you will definitely deliver as much as Harry had.

Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall

Lastly, but would never be the least: Maggie Smith as Professor McGonagall. I personally don’t think Hogwarts would have stood a chance in that battle without her. I mean, c’mon. She could have taken on every single Death Eater that threatened her students. I was so glad Jo had given her this much of a highlight.

DEATHS and KISSES

I just have a bit to say about these two: one seems a bit too less and the other a bit too much. Really, I think the deaths of Fred and Remus and Tonks were more important than Ginny and Harry’s kiss. That’s what I felt then.

Fred’s death was by far the most disappointing where showcasing of deaths are concerned. Seriously, it was the most painful death. It was Fred, for crying out loud. How come there was only the mere sight of his lifeless body? Lavender’s death was even more highlighted than Fred’s.

At the Forbidden Forest

In a different light, though, I must say that I did like the representation of death in that part where Harry met with his parents and Remus and Sirius while on his way to face Voldemort–the picture of death being that of self-sacrifice. It was a splendid scene: the fear and the acceptance mingling together to create an entirely new concept of dying.

FAMILY

We have all known Harry to be the homeless, parentless boy who was orphaned at the age of one. So I guess we could understand the way families are treated with utmost importance in the entire novel. We are, after all, seeing everything from Harry’s point of view.

Helen McCrory as Narcissa Malfoy

Hence, it didn’t come as a surprise that families were highlighted in this final film. The best part? The mothers in the movie exemplifying the different types of motherhood. There was Narcissa Malfoy, the utterly brave mother who could look Voldemort in the eye and lie about Harry’s death just so everything would end for her to get Draco back. It is a pure, however cowardly, type of love.

Julie Walters as Molly Weasley

Of course there was Molly Weasley, who lost a child and a happy, secure life. Molly, who only wanted her children to be comfortable with matching maroon sweaters. Molly, who has so willingly accepted Harry into her family even with all the dangers he comes along with. I would have liked to see more of her, but understandably she can only hold so much glory. So to her, who put an end to the evil that was Bellatrix, the loudest of applauses.

Ellie Darcey-Alden as Lily Evans-Potter

And then there was Lily Evans. She who started all of this. She whose love allowed Harry to put an end to Voldemort. She who sacrificed herself for her son. I guess it’s a reflection of JK Rowling’s being a mother, the way she loves her kids, and the fact that on top of everything else, Harry Potter was created out of a mother’s desire to provide well for her children.

THE PRINCE’S TALE

David Yates proved again how much there is to understand with the characters and the story. He gave that before, with the famous Harry-Hermione dance. And he gave that again, this time in the Prince’s Tale part.

I loved how the scenes from his memories were shown in the exact way I have imagined them to be. And even more! The additional Snape-hugging-Lily scene was way too epic. It was a love story that started and ended at the same line. In fact, the whole “Prince’s Tale” surpassed its own book version. Alan Rickman could only give so much, that’s what I thought in the past movies. But in here, David Yates brought out from him what no other man could give: he made us fall in love with him after years and years of hatred.

Snape Hugging Lily's Lifeless Body

THE END

And then finally, the epilogue. The part everybody dreaded and almost wished wouldn’t happen. It was sooooo subdued. Like the whole battle erupted and then went down to nothing, not even like an explosion that left still-smoldering burnt pieces.

There was only blackness, and then the words Nineteen Years Later.

(Sideline, sideline: I loooooooooove Harry’s kids!!!)

In all fairness, the same feeling at the time I was reading the epilogue was present when I was watching it. I felt like I wanted to hold all of them back so that the impending doom that was the ending would be delayed.

Scenes from the Epilogue

The capturing of that particular scene was both magical and Muggle-ish in a sense. Very ironic, as in being an exit from the Magical World and yet watching everybody else enter the premises.

And then the credits rolled and I was left hanging at those words.

I have already said lot and yet I feel like I could say a bit more. In the end, I’m just like everybody else: a child whose childhood was defined by Harry Potter. So maybe I’d still find something to say in the next months. Or maybe I’d just stay silent and relish the bittersweet feeling of seeing the last of Platform 9 3/4.

But one thing will always remain with me. One that has always presented itself in the books and the movies. A thought, an emotion that Dumbledore said would defeat all evils. Something that probably is the only reason I kept on coming back.

Love.

Jo Rowling at the HP Global Premiere

Until the very end.

Photos from: Rotten Tomatoes and Tumblr

They Were Kids

I must admit I’m not a big fan of the X-Men saga. I only know of Wolverine and Storm and Professor X. And, of course, the fact that it might have spurred all them superhero stories here in the Philippines.

Missing most of the other X-Men films, I wasn’t as excited with X-Men: First Class as many avid fans are. But a few thumbs up and a lot of positive reviews kind of made me want to see the movie.

And when I did, I was left hanging and torn between liking it and dismissing it as just one of “those movies”.

X-Men: First Class

I can’t be as eloquent right now to detail and categorize all of my thoughts about the movie. Usually, I go for a second run of the film before writing anything. But since time is of the essence when it comes to saving my blog from taking its last breath, allow me to do a list of uncollected thoughts.

1. Story

Asking around, I’ve had the impression that one doesn’t need to see all the other previous X-Men films to understand this most current one. And I appreciate that. For viewers like me, who only know from tell-tales the basics of the saga, it is a must that this film sticks to its being an origin film. It would be a real bum if the flashback strategy is used.

Also, the reference to the American and the world history at large is a good plus. It adds to the antiquity and the historic base of the plot.

2. Cinematography

The film is not as laden with breathtaking scenes, for me. Considering that this is a superhero film and one that supposedly precedes a franchise widely known for its photographic scenes. The settings were not as captivating, the scenes a bit fleeting, and the effects not as wild.

Save for that Magneto scene reverting the bombs to the Russians, I think many of the film’s portions can easily be branded as simple. Although I think it can be highly understood, because mostly, the film is not focused on the individuals and their abilities but on the making of an entire saga instead.

3. Characters/Casts

The Cast of X-Men

Costume-wise, some of the characters are well-made. Although there is an apparent case of the film being too laden with namely actors, I like that most of them are given highlights. I think the fact that each character must be focused on to highlight their mutant abilities has balanced the idea that there are way too many known actors in the film.

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy are good opposites of each other. They deliver well together, ironically. From looks to lines and even exuding personalities, the two are very complementary.

Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy

Lucas Till is a revelation for me here, the angst and the mysterious-kid type working for his set features.

Lucas Till as Havok

The same goes for Jennifer Lawrence, whose Katniss Everdeen is much awaited by the viewers as well. I guess X-Men works for her enough to show that she can indeed deliver a very demanding role.

Jennifer Lawrence as Mystique

Finally, Kevin Bacon. He’s one of the best superhero-movie villain I’ve seen–giving the mean lines and showing as much prowess as the protagonists. He doesn’t outshine and allow to be eclipsed, a parallel performance that is truly admirable.

Kevin Bacon as Sebastian Shaw

4. Themes

And ultimately, the themes. I like the incorporation of many themes: friendship, beliefs, courage, and the value of being in touch with one’s inner self. These themes defy the film’s being a superhero movie. It is like any coming of age film, with character and plot developments that are hard to miss. In the end, it will leave you with a feeling that what you’ve seen isn’t just X-Men. It’s the entire inner story of how our superheroes came to be.

So there.

I’d try to come up with something more comprehensive in the future. Although, I’m not promising anything. (Ha!) And for that, I’d leave just a few words: sometimes a superhero movie is not just about a good guy battling a bad guy.